Tata Motors and JLR’s bet on reviving the original spirit of Land Rover with the Defender brand seems to be paying off, with the first model already notching up enough orders to keep the production lines busy for the rest of the year. Adrian Mardell, Chief Financial Officer of Jaguar Land Rover, called the launch nothing short of “sensational”.
Defender, a brand associated with the original, rugged models of Land Rover, was revived after being largely neglected since the turn of the millennium.
Jaguar Land Rover launched the new Defender 110 in March in Europe, and in June in North America.
The vehicle was launched in China just over a week ago, on July 24, and is scheduled to start selling in India later this month.
“We’ve got 30,000 orders already, which basically means that there’s a full order bank for the rest of this calendar year,” Mardell said, while delivering his quarterly investor update on the company’s performance.
“We got more than 1,100 orders from China from the week-ago launch.”
Defender is essentially an acknowledgment to the spirit of the original Land Rover, which used to resemble what many in India would call a ‘Jeep’ — a rugged vehicle like those used in the world wars.
The original Land Rover was designed more with agricultural and utility use in mind rather than as a people carrier or a car.
The Defender can trace a direct line of descent from the original 1948 Land Rover. In fact, these models used to be called Land Rover 90 and Land Rover 110, with the latter being the longer version.
However, when Rover introduced a new model called Discovery in 1989, it became necessary to differentiate the existing, utilitarian line-up under a new brand, and so Defender was born.
At the same time, the Defender models started being offered with a turbodiesel engine option.
In between Land Rover was acquired by BMW, which fitted the Defender with a BMW engine.
By early 2000s, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Defender would find it harder and harder to meet safety and emission norms as it stands, and soon after, Land Rover started work on a replacement known as DC100 or Defender Concept 100.
The DC100 and DC100 Sport were unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
However, they were somewhat removed from the original, rugged and utility oriented models under the Defender brand.
Instead, DC100 was a conventional three-door off-roader with a 2.0-litre turbo-charged diesel engine, while the DC100 Sport is a two-passenger pick-up with a 2.0-litre petrol engine.
The Defender brand, meanwhile, remained largely forgotten for a decade as Jaguar Land Rover — under the management of Tata Motors — fought to remain relevant in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Now, after nearly a decade, the company is trying to revive the original product and philosophy.
Mardell pointed out that this was something that the previous owners of Land Rover didn’t do.
“You know, BMW decided they couldn’t do this, so did Ford,” he pointed out.
“JLR and Tata Motors launched this vehicle. It’s a dramatic vehicle and it will be successful for generations to come in many many many forms.”
Mardell said the response so far to the launch has been “really sensational”.
“So sensational that we’ve decided to delay the launch of the Defender 90, which will now be later in the year to make sure we give the 110 a chance to reach all of its intended customers before we bring out the next super derivative of this super vehicle,” he said.